Spoldom – Condominium in Lublin / Neta Zytomirski Avidar

 

The condominium at Probostwo 19 in Lublin was founded between 1928 and 1930. From all aspects it was modern and unusual.

In what ways was it unique?

 Architecture

The condominium was a complex of several four floors joined buildings. Grasses, gardens and shading trees filled the open spaces between the buildings.

It was a modern house. According to the new architectural style which emerged in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, the house had a functional simple "no ornaments" cubic form.

Property' ownership: Commonhold

It was a commonhold. The residents owned the apartments they had lived in, and they had the right to use the public spaces of the apartment house. That was a totally new concept in Poland of those days.

Forty Jewish families had lived in the condominium. Even the porter was Jewish.

The house as an autonomic environment

The house was much more than apartments for dwelling. It had various functions which created the conditions for social life of its residents.

There was a culture club in the house. In the club there was a radio, a telephone and a ping-pong table. The residents were gathering in the club, discussing politics or hearing lectures.

The Spoldom had its own beth midrash. A good cantor was hired for the High Holy Days (Yamim Noraim). Jews from other streets also came to the Spoldom's beth midrash and attended the prays.

At the Spoldom's big plot children played football – not only the Spoldom's children, but also other Jewish children who were looking for a safe place to play in it.

Mothers with their babies, also those who were not inhabitants of the house, came to the Spoldom's garden in order to take a walk safely.

Within the hostile Polish environment of those days, the Spoldom was a little Jewish autonomy. It was an independent unit which enabled a common social activity of the inhabitants.

Who is who in the Spoldom?

The initiators and leading figures at the Spoldom cinstruction process were the architect Eng. Henryk Bekker, Leib Gelibter and Moshe Gradel.

The founders of the house and the owners of the apartments were Lublin's intelligence at its best. That was the cultural and political elite of Lublin: political leaders, economists and culture people. Opinion differences didn't influence the friendship relations they had with each other. Spoldom inhabitants, their wives and children lived together in fraternity as one big family.

We will mention few of the figures who were related to the Spoldom.

 

Eng. Henryk Bekker

Following his professional and political views, Eng. Henryk Bekker was one of the initiators of building condominiums for Jews. After building the Spoldom at Probostwo 19, he founded a second house at Wieniewska 6. In 1936 he was a member of the committee for building the Jewish Cultural Center, the I. L. Perec House.

Henryk Bekker was one of the leaders of Folkspartaj (People's Party) in Lublin.

Folkspartaj was a non-Zionist Jewish party. The Folkists wanted to preserve Jewish nationalism in Europe by having autonomy – cultural, spiritual and legal. Their actions were aimed for getting equal rights for Jews in the countries they were living in.

Henryk Bekker was the party's representative in Lublin's Jewish Community Council and a member of the Lublin City Council.

When the Nazis conquered Lublin, he became head of the Lublin Judenrat.

On 31 March 1942 he was deported together with his wife to the death camp in Belzec. He knew about the fate of the deportees; without any suitcases he went to the Umschlagplatz in Lublin, wearing his Talith.

Leib Gelibter

A merchant and an owner of a large cloths store. He was one of the main figures at the Zionist Organization in Lublin. Gelibter was leader of the Revisionists in the town; Ze'ev Jabotinsky was staying at his home in times he visited Lublin.

Gelibter was one of the founders of The Humanistics Gymnasium in Lublin, as well as one of the founders of Tarbuth School branch in town. He was among the founders of The Craftsmen and Petty Merchants' Bank and served as the President of the Bank.

Establishing the housing cooperative Spoldom was one of his great enterprises.

Moshe Gradel

He was one of the Spoldom founders and a tenant in the house.

Moshe Gradel was the manager of The Craftsmen and Petty Merchants' Bank. He was among the establishers of Folkspartaj in Lublin.

Gradel did a lot of things in economic, social and political life in Lublin, but the most dominant field which was connected to his name was the culture area.

Already in 1908 he was among the establishers of 'Hazamir' (The Nightingale), a Jewish national institute in Lublin which had the aim of fostering the love of Hebrew singing and literature. He was among the founders of CJSO (The Central Organization of Yiddish Schools between the Two World Wars) in Lublin, a member of The Humanistics Gymnasium management and the establisher of a big Yiddish library.

The coping-stone of its activity: He and his fellow member of the Folkspartaj, Israel Katznelbogen, established Lublin's daily newspaper – 'Lubliner Tagblatt'.

In the Holocaust Moshe Gradel eas perished together with his wife and daughter.

Yaakov (Jacob) Kantor

Together with Leib Gelibter he established the Spoldom, the first Jewish condominium in Lublin, and also dwelled in it.

Yaakov Kantor was a brilliant and fascinating figure: a rabbi, a teacher and a lawyer; one of the leaders of 'The Mizrachi' organization in Lublin; one of the founders of Tarbuth School (Hebrew-language school) in Lublin; and of the 'Yavneh' religious-Zionist school in Lublin.

Kantor was a great orator. He was known for his polemical debates with 'Agudat Yisrael' party from one hand, with Jewish Labor 'Bund' party from the other hand, and with 'Folkists' from a third hand…

During the Second World War he was a member in the Judenrat.

Yaakov Kantor was executed by the Nazis on March 1942.

And what is happening today?

The house at at Probostwo 19 in Lublin stands there till today.

It is a fine house even today.

The changing times brought parking lots instead of the green gardens.

The eye wanders over the front entrance and suddenly meets a memorial plaque connected to the wall.

The sign was set on the wall in 1998 by Lublin City Council. And these are the things which are written there:

                                                            In memory of

                                    The Poles who served the homeland and patriotism

                                    And were murdered by the communists.

                                    This building was a detention house of NKVD.

 

Does anyone of our readers know about this chapter in the history of the house? Can he tell us about it?

Summary and translation to English: Shmulik Avidar

English edition: Esther Mandelay

                                   

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